Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

January 14, 2006

Good day, raining here in Tracy CA USA.

Stardust is inbound with capsule drop coming up. - LRK -

NASA's Stardust mission return capsule will land Sunday, Jan. 15, at approximately 2:12 a.m. Pacific time (3:12 a.m. Mountain time) on the Utah Test and Training Range. Stardust is completing a 2.88 billion mile round-trip odyssey to capture and return cometary and interstellar dust particles to Earth.

+ Full Story

+ Stardust's Final Hours

+ Return Capsule Timeline

+ Flash Feature

+ Jan 5: Stardust Successfully Performs Maneuver

Thanks for looking up with me.

Larry Kellogg

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D.C. Agle (818) 354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dwayne Brown/Merrilee Fellows (202) 358-1726/(818) 393-0754
NASA Headquarters, Washington
News Release 2006-008 January 14, 2006
NASA's Stardust Passes Moon, Just Hours Away From Earth Return

Less than one day of space travel separates Earth and history's first comet sample return mission. Today at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time (10:30 a.m. Mountain time), the Stardust spacecraft will cross the moon's orbit as the craft makes its way toward Earth.

The final 400,000 kilometers (249,000 miles) of the mission to return a capsule containing cometary particles to Earth will take just 16 hours and 27 minutes. It took the Apollo astronauts about three days to make the same journey.

"Our entire flight and recovery team will be watching this final leg of our flight with tremendous expectation as we implement a precise celestial ballet in delivering our capsule to Earth," said Stardust Project Manager Tom Duxbury of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We feel like parents awaiting the return of a child who left us young and innocent, who now returns holding answers to the most profound questions of our solar system."

Prior to passing the moon's orbit, the spacecraft performed a final maneuver to place it on a precise path to reach its landing target on the Utah Test and Training Range. The burn, which took place yesterday at 8:53 p.m. Pacific time (9:53 p.m. Mountain time), took 58.5 seconds to complete and changed the spacecraft's velocity by 2.9 mph. At the time of the burn the spacecraft was about 706,000 kilometers (439,000 miles) from Earth.

NASA's Stardust mission has traveled about 4.5 billion kilometers (2.88 billion miles) during its seven year round-trip odyssey. It is a journey that carried it around the sun three times and beyond Mars and the asteroid belt -- as far out as half-way to Jupiter. This cosmic voyage was in quest of cometary and interstellar dust particles, which scientists believe will help provide answers to fundamental questions about comets and the origins of the solar system.

"With the information we gathered during our encounter with comet Wild 2 in Jan. 2004, Stardust has already provided us with some remarkable science," said Dr. Don Brownlee, Stardust principal investigator at the University of Washington, Seattle. "With the return of cometary samples, we'll be able to work with the actual building materials of the solar system as they were when the solar system was formed. It will be a great day for science."

The last few hours of the Stardust mission will be filled with significant milestones. Today at about 8:15 p.m. Pacific time (9:15 p.m. Mountain time), mission controllers will command the spacecraft to begin the computer-controlled sequence that will release the sample return capsule. At 9:56 p.m. Pacific time (10:56 p.m. Mountain time), the Stardust spacecraft will complete the sequence by severing the umbilical cables between spacecraft and capsule. One minute later, springs aboard the spacecraft will literally push the capsule away, putting it into its trajectory toward the Utah Test and Training Range. Fifteen minutes later, the "mother ship," the Stardust spacecraft, will perform a maneuver to enter orbit around the sun.

At 1:57 a.m. Pacific time (2:57 a.m. Mountain time), four hours after being released by the Stardust spacecraft, the capsule will enter Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of 125 kilometers (410,000 feet) over Northern California. At this point it will be 20 kilometers (12.43 miles) east of the Pacific coast and 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) south of the Oregon-California border. The velocity of the sample return capsule as it enters Earth's atmosphere at 46,440 kilometers per hour (28,860 miles per hour) will be the greatest of any human-made object on record. This will surpass the record set in May 1969 during the return of the Apollo 10 command module.

The Stardust sample return capsule will release a drogue parachute at an altitude of approximately 32 kilometers (105,000 feet). Once the capsule has descended to an altitude of about 3 kilometers (10,000 feet) at 2:05 a.m. Pacific time (3:05 a.m. Mountain time), the main parachute will deploy. The capsule is scheduled to land on the salt flats of the Utah Test and Training Range at 2:12 a.m. Pacific time (3:12 a.m. Mountain time).

If weather conditions allow, the recovery team will be flown by helicopter to recover the capsule
and fly it to the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, for initial processing. If weather does
not allow helicopters to fly, special off-road vehicles will be used to transport the recovery
team to retrieve the capsule and return it to Dugway. The collector grid with cometary and interstellar samples will be moved to a special laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, where they will be preserved and studied by scientists.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Stardust mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, developed and operates the spacecraft.

For information about the Stardust mission on the Web, visit .
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit .
Taken from InsideKSC by j3mia03 - LRK -
January 14, 2006
Six years after liftoff, spacecraft set to bring back comet samples

Comet dust frequently bombards the Earth, but this is the first time it has come in a neat package, from a known source.

Overnight, Stardust's samples from Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "vilt 2") are scheduled to hurtle toward the Utah desert at nearly 29,000 mph. The landing speed is faster than that of any other manmade object, though the capsule will be slowed by parachutes.

"It's like a launch: You just can't get too nervous for it, although a launch is much more nerve-wracking than this," said the University of Washington's Don Brownlee, lead scientist for the mission.

The difference is that with a launch, there's still a whole mission ahead, "a whole rat's nest of things that can kill you," he said. Stardust already has survived its 1999 launch from Cape Canaveral and its thrilling flyby of the comet's nucleus in January 2004.

Now, it has to deliver its samples safely to Earth -- an outcome that was in question after the capsule carrying the Genesis mission's solar wind particle samples crash-landed at the same site last year when its similar parachute system failed.

Ed Hirst, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the team is convinced the $212 million Stardust mission won't have the same problem.

"We've undergone a very heavy level of scrutiny by review boards because of Genesis and because of the Columbia accident," Brownlee said. ". . . It was a cultural shift in NASA, that you're now required to understand all the risks."

Just before 1 a.m. Sunday, Stardust will release the sample return capsule. It's scheduled to hit the Air Force Utah Test and Training Range shortly after 5 a.m. EST.

"This thing will light up the night sky for a brief period of time," at least in the western United States, said Tom Duxbury, project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The main craft, with its camera and chemical-identifying mass spectrometer, will continue to orbit the sun and will be considered for other missions, such as an asteroid flyby.

It's already had one triumph: the fascinating photos sent back to Earth of the comet's strange nucleus.

Odd comet?

Scientists weren't even sure they'd get images of Wild 2. The camera was designed primarily for navigation.

"The imaging was a bonus, but boy, what a bonus," Brownlee said. Of the few comets photographed up close, Wild 2 is unusually rugged, Brownlee said.

"It looks like someone pushed their fingers all over it," he said, ". . . but not a single one of those depressions looks like a normal impact crater."

Despite the cliffs and spires of Wild 2, "inside, these things are probably very similar," he said.

It's important that scientists know the origin of this stardust returning to Earth. The particles captured in the collection paddle's aerogel, which is almost as light as air, are thought to be from the earliest stuff of the solar system.

"We know that this was from a comet," Brownlee said, "and we know that this comet formed out beyond Neptune."

As Stardust passed through the jets of material spewing from the icy comet, it collected particles that are expected to include organic material, perhaps like the stuff that comets brought to the formative Earth.

Splitting hairs

When the capsule lands, it will be taken to the Army's Dugway Proving Ground by helicopter if weather permits. The team will first remove the sample canister from the capsule that helped protect it on the way through the atmosphere.

It won't be opened until it reaches a Johnson Space Center clean room, which uses filters and protective protocols to keep the air relatively free of particles that could contaminate the samples. There is no requirement to quarantine cometary material, but scientists want to
keep the comet dust pure.

The collection paddle resembles a large ice cube tray. Scientists will remove just a couple of pods of aerogel at first for examination.

Make sure to visit the Flagship website:

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